Madame Recamier Jacques Louis David Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Jacques Louis was a famous and a very prolific French painter in neoclassical styles, and he is considered as one of the celebrated painters of their era.

His cerebral brand in historical paintings marked a change in taste and preferences in the 1780s. These change of taste was marked away from Rococo frivolity towards the character of soberness and severity and heightened feeling. This helped it to be harmonized with the moral climate in painting. He later became of the active supporters of the revolution I France. Due to his outstanding work and creativity, he was referred to as a dictator in painting and arts under the French Republic. One of the tasks that saw his career to come at the peak is the Madame Recamier painting.

Madame Recamier was the wife of a Persian banker, and she was the most beautiful woman of her time. Jacques was requested to have a painting of Madame. He came up with a portrait that showed her outfitted in a vintage style dress. She was surrounded by Pompeian furniture. The picture was extremely avant-garde for the 1800s. The picture stayed for many years without being finished under unclear circumstances, and Jacques never gave a good explanation about it until the day that Madame Recamier asked him and he told her that women have their wits, and so do artist, and she should give him time to finish his work.

Luis kept the painting after some time; he wanted to do a rework on the canvas as he was not satisfied with the first version of the art. He stayed with the painting for about two and a half decades where he produced the art to the public, and it immediately entered the Louvre. Madame Recamier’s Indescribable attraction was written by Theophile Gautier just the same way as the poetry of the unknown.

Madame Recamier’s painting has one innovative aspect, which is its horizontal format. This format is unusual for pictures and this kind of unique paintings are always reserved for painting histories. Madame’s portrait has a bare space around the painting stresses the elegance of Madame’s reclined body. Her antique pose, the light dress, and the bare décor are brought out in the painting as the epitomized neoclassical principles. Recamier’s white dress has brought out a clear harmony and has also brightened up the warm hues of the furniture on the portrait.

In the whole painting, it's only the head that is about to be finished, and Louis never added any highlights to the dresses' impasto. All other accessories such as the walls and the floor are merely sketched in with vibrant brushstrokes, with the brilliant basecoat still showing through in some places on the painting. The unfinished state of this portrait gives it a mysterious look. This look makes it be doubtless and very different to other portraits and this finished portrait that Louis had in mind. Louis has several paintings that have unfinished background apart from this one.

For the purposes of contrasting Jacques Louis David with other artists, it is worth comparing his paintings to those of the likes of Goya, El Greco, Peter Paul Rubens, Pieter Bruegel and also Rembrandt. Even the more occassional art followers will be able to visually differentiate the styles, colours and techniques used by these famous, highly skilled exponents.